Double boost for farmers

December 27, 2007
THE East Coast Economic Region (ECER) plan to integrate cattle rearing in oil palm lands
will provide dual income to oil palm farmers and can create 6,000 new job opportunities
for the region, Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) director-general Datuk Dr Mohd Basri
Wahid said.
Out of the 6,000 job opportunities, some.4,000 jobs can be created in upstream
activities such as tanning, meat processing, and feed milling.
In a statement, Basri said the project will also help develop the country’s small and
medium- sized industries as well as in- crease Malaysia’s beef production that currently
produces only 23 per cent of the nation’s demand.
The national target is to expand cattle population to 1.49 million heads by 2010.
“By rearing cattle in oil palm plantations, implementation can also be speeded up as
cattle graze on existing agricultural land without requiring the opening up of new areas,”
the statement added.
A herd size of 100 breeding cows and five bulls integrated systematically in 400 hectares
of oil palm plantation has potential to increase to a herd of 263 heads.
According to the statement, in- vestment cost for such a project is relatively low, as is its
risks. Be- nefits include low cattle mortality rates of below five per cent, low
maintenance, and relatively high internal rate of return of between 20 per cent and 45
per cent, with reduction in cost of between 20 per cent and 35 per cent.
Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) researcher and
expert on cattle, Dr Johari Jiken Ahdullah, said cattle integration is the only viable and
feasible cattle method that is cost-effective in Malaysia.
He said open pasture method practised in countries like Australia cannot be used here as
it is not economical with very long gestation period of between 10 and 15 years to bring
in returns.
“The oil palm integration method of using natural vegetation is relatively a zero cost
method where smallholders need only to bear minimal management cost of the cattle.
This method is widely practised with Felda smallholders and has proven to be very
successful,” said Johari.
Meanwhile, Basri said about 51 per cent of 1.08 million ha land planted with oil palm in
the region amounting to 542,000ha is suit- able for cattle oil palm integration.
ECER’s proposed target is 464,000ha under 13 target areas across the region.
Based on MPOB’s study of the optimal ratio of one cattle to 4ha of land, the maximum
number of cattle that can be integrated with oil palm in ECER is about 135,500 heads, he
said, noting that systematic rotational grazing is important to optimise the land without
causing detrimental effects to oil palm production.
“The oil palm smallholders are receptive to the cattle integration idea. This is clearly
shown by the Felda’s settlers who are currently rearing about 168,800 cattle in their oil
palm land.
“The unorganised smallholders who own land of less than 3ha may need to group
together in order to achieve a minimum economic size of 100 heads of breeding cow in
400ha of land cattle,” he added.